Mar 8, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House plots bipartisan deal on Trump and Biden family finances

Photo illustration of Donald Trump and Joe Biden surrounded by excerpts of  financial documents, classified documents, and scribbles.

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP and Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump and Biden families are inspiring potentially bipartisan House legislation, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The House Oversight Committee's top leaders are seeking to channel intense partisan hostilities into reforms for classified documents and presidential family finances.

  • "There are seeds of real legislative promise," Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, told Axios.

Driving the news: Oversight committee staff are working on legislation to require more financial disclosure from presidential family members and reform the National Archives process for recovering classified documents at the end of presidential administrations, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

  • "I think those are the two biggest areas ... where there's an opportunity for bipartisan legislation," House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) told Axios.
  • Comer and Raskin have already had broad-based discussions about what might be feasible on both fronts, the members told Axios.

Between the lines: The source of some of the most partisan, made-for-TV hearings in Washington is an unlikely venue for bipartisanship.

  • Despite the two going toe-to-toe in televised hearings, Raskin, in an interview with Axios, characterized Comer as a "serious legislator" with whom he can work in good faith.
  • "I know he also has to deal with a very potent and sometimes toxic MAGA wing within his caucus and ... his committee," Raskin said.

Yes, but: A partisan divide could emerge over extending the disclosure mandate to family members not serving in government, and the talks are only “at the rhetorical level,” Raskin said.

  • Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a progressive senior Oversight member, told Axios he doesn't see any reason to force disclosures from family members who are otherwise private citizens.
  • "Why should we have, like, Chelsea Clinton [disclose] her finances, or Malia Obama? No," said Khanna.

What they're saying: Comer told Axios he's hopeful about addressing "influence peddling" by family members of presidents.

  • Democrats "complained about the previous administration and family members doing things crossing the line with our adversaries," he said. "I’m obviously complaining about it with this administration."
  • Raskin said he is "certainly" on board with requiring disclosures from family members in federal jobs — i.e. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
  • Raskin acknowledged a "structural problem where people conceivably could influence a president by influencing members of the President's family."

The big picture: Ethical and legal questions around Trump's family, business and foreign investments have long been a source of investigation and criticism from Democrats.

  • The Democrat-led Oversight committee under Trump investigated the decision to grant security clearances to Kushner and foreign government spending at the Trump Hotel in D.C.
  • Republicans and conservative media have made prime targets out of Hunter Biden and the president's brother, James Biden. They've raised concerns around the pair's financial and business transactions with foreign actors.
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